Former Czech president Vaclav Havel criticises EU for 'shameful deal' to normalise relations with Cuba

31-01-2005

The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has again spoken out strongly against recent moves taken by the European Union to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an open letter published on Monday in a leading Czech daily, Mr Havel said that the EU had entered into a "shameful deal" that "spit on all the principles" of democracy and human rights espoused in the draft EU constitution. The EU froze diplomatic relations with Cuba in June 2003 after some 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. But in recent months, Cuba has re-established contacts with EU member states, after they agreed to stop inviting Cuban dissidents to official embassy events. The communist island nation first re-established contact with its closest ally, Spain, and finally with those most hostile to the Cuban regime: the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, as well as the EU as a whole. Vaclav Havel, himself a former dissident who was imprisoned many times by communist officials, is the founder of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, an organisation that supports the families of Cuban dissidents.